Sunday, July 31, 2011

New England Renaissance Series: #10 Goodluck Okonoboh

The New England Renaissance Series is an ongoing countdown of some of the best prospects in the region regardless of class. It is important not to dwell on the order of the rankings but rather on the unprecedented amount of talent the region possesses.

#10 Goodluck Okonoboh (2013)
Height: 6'7   Weight:190
Hometown: Boston Mass
School Team: Tilton
Travel Team: BABC
NERR Rank: 5     National Rank: 33

Okonoboh, the cousin of UCONN center Alex Oriakhi, has one of the highest upsides of anyone in New England. Although he came off the bench at Tilton and continues to struggle to find minutes on BABC, Okonoboh has unlimited upside. He is extremely long, bouncy, and has a knack for electrifying plays. For these reasons ESPN ranked him in their top 50 for the class of 2013. Here is his ESPN evaluation and highlight tape.

Okonoboh is a mobile big man and high level athlete. He runs the floor, changes direction, gets off his feet in a hurry, and plays high above the rim to finish plays and block shots. He loves to dunk the ball and will do so by getting out in transition, tipping in offensive rebounds, sealing when fronted on the block, or quickly rolling to the rim after setting the ball screen. He also shows some potential facing up and utilizing his quickness to attack with a bounce from the short corner or elbow and has a pretty soft touch on his jumper from 12 feet and in. Defensively, is a big time shot blocker and versatile on the ball defender thanks to his lateral quickness.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

NFL Free Agency: Rapid Reactions

This past week has been one of bliss for me and anyone else who enjoys all that is good about sport. Not only is the AAU season in full swing in Orlando and Vegas but NFL free agency has been booming (Is it just me or should NFL free agency always be packed into such a small window?). It may be a bad idea to write about free agency before the dust has settled, but I just can’t resist the temptation. Below are some initial reactions to the free agency period. Included in my analysis were trades, re-signings, and releases.

Notable Acquisitions: Chad Ochocinco (trade), Albert Haynsworth (trade), Logan Mankins (Franchise Tag), Sammy Morris (Re-Signed)
Notable Losses: Tully Banta-Cain (Released), Ty Warren (Released), Alge Crumpler (Released), Nick Kaczur (released)
Still Pending:
Matt Light (UFA), Gerrard Warren (UFA), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (RFA)
Welcome to the family
Analysis: After my NFL Draft recap, RFH guest contributor Gil Haylon asked if I would ever give the Patriots a bad review. The “you are a shameless homer” refrain does carry some weight, but the Patriots did not give me much of a chance to be objective this free agency season. Bill Belichick and crew have been outstanding in terms of filling needs and getting value. Many in the media are criticizing the Ochocinco and Haynsworth deals, but in each case, the Patriots are acquiring players for a low price who could contribute a lot. Lets start with Ochocinco. Last year was his worst in almost every statistical category. Although some of this can be attributed to Carson Palmer’s precipitous decline, few would argue that he isn’t slowing down. With that said, Ochocinco still is an above average receiver who will be a significant upgrade over Brandon Tate on the outside. People like to criticize Ochocinco’s attitude (he is an easy target), but in reality, his football character is top notch.
Haynsworth is a higher risk, higher reward player than Ochocinco. There is no doubting Haynsworth’s erratic football character. I would not be surprised in the slightest if the Patriots cut him before the season even starts. The potential reward associated with Haynsworth, however, is too high to pass up. When motivated, there is no interior defensive lineman that is as disruptive or requires as much attention. The scary thing for the rest of the AFC is that Vince Wilfork is easily second in terms of disruption and attention. If (and it is a big if) Haynsworth is in shape and motivated the Patriots defense will be the best first and second down defense in the league.
Although Ochocinco and Haynsworth are the headline grabbers for the Patriots, the franchising of Logan Mankins is equally important. Getting Mankins into camp on time and happy was a must now that Matt Light’s future with the team is in doubt.

Going Forward: The Patriots still need to address their biggest weakness, the pass rush. The loss of pass rushing specialist Tully Banta-Cain only furthers this weakness. Jermaine Cunningham will be more than capable on one side, but look for the Patriots to target a Matt Roth type to help Cunningham out. I also think that Patriots might continue to look for another running back. Currently the position is stocked with young talent and veteran role players, but acquiring a dynamic threat like Ronnie Brown wouldn’t be out of the question. The loss of Crumpler and Warren are tough but sustainable. One interesting thing to note is that Warren was not surprised by his release citing that he thought the Patriots were moving away from the 3-4.

Friday, July 29, 2011

New England Renaissance Series: #11 Jarred Reuter

The New England Renaissance Series is an ongoing countdown of some of the best prospects in the region regardless of class. It is important not to dwell on the order of the rankings but rather on the unprecedented amount of talent the region possesses.

Height: 6'8    Weight: 225
Hometown: Rochester Mass
School Team: Saint Marks
Travel Team: New England Playaz
NERR Rank: 3    National Rank: 71

This pick at #11 might surprise some, but when it is all said and done "Big Rochester" will be a truly special talent. Unfortunately for Reuter, he was injured playing football last fall so his exposure was down. This spring and summer, however, he has reestablished himself as one of the best players in his class. He is a bull inside, and will be a formidable physical force as he continues to fill out. The recent scholarship offer from Indiana is only further proof that the sky is the limit for Reuter. Saint Johns and Rutgers have also offered. Here is his ESPN Evaluation.

Reuter's game is similar to that of a poor man's Tyler Hansbrough in that he is a power player inside with a terrific motor. He plalys with reckless abandon inside the paint, bullying physically weaker and less aggressive players. Even at his young age opposing players already bounce off his strong frame as he carves out space to score inside, rebound, and defend the post. He has a soft touch inside the lane, signs of a developing jump hook with his back the basket, and enough skill to step out and shoot.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ned Colletti, The Luckiest Man in Sports

I probably don't need to write much on this topic.

I could simply say, "look at the picture above.  Imagine that Frank McCourt is the one in the foreground and that Ned Colletti is the one in the background, out of focus.  It's a metaphor for the freedom that Colletti has enjoyed to make horrible decision after horrible decision thanks to the distraction that McCourt has caused by being a horrible, horrible owner."

But it's worth a deeper look to comprehend how the general manager the person that is most directly responsible for the collapse of the Dodgers since he was hired in 2006.

McCourt deserves every negative word said about him -- and only those who have followed this thing for years and read every detailed, disgusting account of how he and his family abused Dodger funds for personal use know just how much of a scumbag he really is -- but at the end of the day, Ned Colletti had almost $100 million a year to spend on his major league baseball team.  He may not have had access to the resources to go after C.C. Sabathia or Cliff Lee, but neither did 28 other teams, and most of them are considerably better put-together than the Blue.

Few would look at the the team over the last year and a half -- or even the playoff years of 2008 and 2009, for that matter -- and argue that the general manager has done a particularly good job, but he has also been largely absent from the discussion of how this franchise has gone from promising to the precipice of the Pennant to pathetic. When the Dodgers reached consecutive National League Championship Series in 2008 and 2009, they were ahead of schedule.  Clayton Kershaw was a rookie in '08 and neither Matt Kemp nor Andre Ethier had hit their prime, so who could blame you for expecting to see them playing in October for years to come?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Haters Guide to the ACC

The RFH Collective welcomes Ed (my housemate who for understandable reasons doesn't want his last name associated with this article). Ed's passion for all things college football, his already chronicled culinary mastery, and his penchant for saying (and in this case writing) the most inappropriate things on his mind makes him the perfect candidate for writing a haters guide to a major college football conference. I think we might have a new series up will be a haters guide to either Mateen Cleaves or Kobe.

As an SEC fan that went to an SEC school I naturally think that the SEC has the best talent, match-ups, tailgates, and sorority girl perv cam shots (Seriously, watch the Iron Bowl without your jaw dropping and I’ll give you a shiny nickel) in all of college football. There are teams/conferences that turn my head like the Pac-10 and TCU, but every year there is a conference so over-hyped that I must hate on: the ACC. Every year the preseason rankings come out and every year there are the same east-coast bias reporters talking about how “good” some ACC teams will be this year only to have them be mediocre and go to some random bowl where they get walloped. Without further adieu fellow haters, here is the list:
Georgia Tech:
Preseason ranking: #16, Postseason ranking: Un-ranked
Here’s Georgia Tech’s offense in a nutshell: Triple Option, and by nutshell I mean that’s literally all they run. Here’s the kicker though, IT ACTUALLY WORKS IN THE ACC. Unfortunately, it didn’t work against Air Force. Yes that’s right, Air Force cadets who are typically small in order to fit in A-10s, F-16s, AC-130s, and other great machines of ass kickery held Georgia Tech to 7 points and won.
How does your ass feel GT?

Friday, July 15, 2011

NEPSAC Class "AA" Preview

New England basketball has always been defined by the prep schools in the region. Few people dispute that the best high school league in the country is NEPSAC class “A”. Schools such as Brewster,South Kent, and New Hampton frequently unveil teams of six to ten division I players, many of whom are post graduates. Although class "A" deservedly receives much of the credit, the NEPSAC’s lower levels have become increasingly formidable. Last years creation of class “AA” allowed for the top teams in the old class “B”, “C”, and “D” all to compete with each other in a sort of super league. What makes class “AA” so interesting is that they have teams that are elite on a national level (and could compete against class “A” teams) but are not too heavy on postgraduates. The result is that teams like Tilton and Saint Mark’s are comprised of local studs who have played together for multiple years. This preview of class “AA” will be inherently flawed because there will continue to be prep transfers that will be announced later in the summer.

“The Favorites”

Last years champion returns pretty much the entire squad and figures to be a not only the favorite in class “AA” but also a contender for the national title. Tilton is strengthened by the fact that their core nucleus also plays together during the summer as well. 
The team is lead in the frontcourt by Georges Niang (2012). The Methuen Mass native, and recent Iowa state commit, is a load on interior. Niang uses his frame to carve our space, while using his uncanny ability to finish in order to be extremely productive. Niang also has a developing skill set on the perimeter both as a passer and shooter. Although his ceiling might not be as high as others on his team, Niang is as productive as it gets on the high school level. Although Niang is the elder statesmen for Tilton Nerlens Noel (2013) is the headliner in the frontcourt. The 6’10 Noel is ranked 3rd by ESPN in his class and is the best defensive big man New England has seen since Marcus Camby. Noel combines height, length, movement, and timing to be the best defensive player in the country regardless of class. In addition to his defensive prowess, Noel also has a developing offensive game relying on a solid baby hook and great passing. Aside from Niang and Noel, Tilton has another promising frontcourt player in Goodluck Okonoboh (2013). Okonoboh (2013) is ranked 32nd in his class by ESPN. The scary thing is that the 6’8 Massachusetts native doesn’t even start! At this point in his career Okonoboh is more of a development prospect, but is still formidable as a shot blocker and electric finisher.

In the backcourt, Tilton is lead by Wayne Selden (2014). The 6’4 Selden is built more like a running back than a wing. The fact that he was only a freshmen last year scares me, and everyone who watched him last year. Ranked 7th in his class by ESPN, Selden uses his strength and explosive athleticism to get to the rim and finish. Selden also is efficient shooting the ball from deep although his shot mechanics need some work. Flanking Selden on the wing is Dominique Bull (2012). The 6’3 wing, and one time URI commit is ranked 17th in New England by the New England Recruiting report (NERR). Bull serves as the teams defensive stopper on the perimeter while also providing some scoring in stretches. At this point, the one area where Tilton is lacking as at the point guard position. Last years starter, Aaron Law is off to Iowa State. It would not be suprising if Tilton brought in a Postgraduate to fill that void.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Public Consciousness: an Alternate Reality

For an organization known for its consistency, the Steelers sure do find themselves in the center of controversy quite often these days.  The most recent case, of course, is James Harrison speaking out on a number of topics in an interview with Men's Journal.

Maybe it is because of their place in the league, that their unmatched record of success naturally causes us to pay attention when their players -- their stars -- wind up in the news, and that may be a part of it.  But I think there is something more to it, and in addition to making headlines on the field, the quartet of Harrison, Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall and Hines Ward has managed to take center stage on just about every pressing social issue over the past year.  Each individual case has been a story in its own right, a display of how not to do something even if the intent was "right."  What's resulted is a polarizing (can something be considered polarizing if there is a near-unanymous feeling that these players are "wrong?") mix of big names doing public things that beg big questions about how athletes -- and football players in particular -- should act.

Friday, July 8, 2011

MLB Player to Watch: Mike Trout

You can go ahead and put that jersey on now, Mike.

In a move that came way earlier than most expected, the Angels that play in Anaheim have called up top prospect Mike Trout.

He's not their top prospect, but arguably the top prospect in all of Major League Baseball, and tonight, at the age of 19, he will make his debut as the starting centerfielder against the Mariners.  Among prospect "experts," Trout is unanimously in the top two in the game, either ahead of or right behind Bryce Harper.  The two are different types of players -- Harper has prodigious power, Trout is a well-rounded hitter that should steal a ton of bases and play an excellent defensive centerfield -- but few can strongly favor either in the debate of the game's best.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Iron Chef: RFH Edition

Back when we started this blog, there were whispers among the cousins that we might incorporate some of the best grub we come across.  And while the Collective has yet to fulfill that lofty goal, it's never too late to start.  On Tuesday night, Dave and I served as judges for the most impressive cookoff either of us has ever seen.  As legend has it, two of Dave's roommates, Ed and Whit, woke up Tuesday morning with one goal: to create as many dishes with chicken and/or watermelon that they could, serve them as artfully as possible, and then face the music.  At 12:43, I received this text message: "Ed and Whit are having an iron chef cookoff with chicken and watermelon as the ingredients.  We need another judge."  At 8 p.m., Dave, their other roommate Josh and I were seated and starving.  This is what we were served.

Courses were scored in three categories: Quality (10 pts.), Originality (10 pts.), Presentation (5 pts.)